3 May 08 | Chad W. Post

Post-Rusdie/Eco—and post a few celebration drinks—I caught a 6am flight down to New York to attend the rest of the PEN World Voices Festival. (And meet with reviewers and bookstores about our first list, but that’s boring, um, business.)

E.J. and I made it to three events yesterday, and have a ton lined up for today.

The first thing we went to was “Bookforum—Political Engagement” which was a conversation between Elias Khoury (whose Yalo we reviewed on the site a few months back) and Nuruddin Farah moderated by Albert Mobilio. As always, Albert did a spectacular job keeping the conversation going, exploring the festival theme of “Public Lives/Private Lives” and the political nature of novels.

One of the best moments was when Farah talked about why he decided to write in English instead of one of the other languages he knows. He claimed it was because the Italian Olivetti typewriters broke down way more frequently than the English Royal ones . . .

The second event was “Crossing Borders,” which we went to to see Goncalo Tavares—who of course wasn’t there—along with Lieve Joris, Ana Castillo, and Daniel Kehlmann. This event was OK. Lila Azam Zanganeh moderated and was as charming and thoughtful as usual, and I think Joris could be particularly interesting on a different panel. Perhaps one that explored more deeply the connections between non-fiction and novels, truth and fiction, and public narrations and private lives.

I wasn’t all that impressed with Kehlmann, which is my main beef with this event. I know his Measuring the World didn’t impress a lot of reviewers here in the States (although it sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Germany) and in the section he read, the use of the words “hoot” and “gaping” were a bit awkward. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but came off as someone who’s really young, and not very well-read. More of a literary star for his starpower than for his actual writing. (The comment he made about how reviewers in America thought his 250-page was too short was ludicrous.) Kehlmann does have a new book is coming out this fall, which honestly sounds pretty promising . . .

Finally, there was a wonderful reception at the Instituto Cervantes where Eduardo Lago and Mario Vargas Llosa welcomed everyone to the festival, and basically any and everyone connected to international literature hung out drinking Absinthe martinis in the IC’s beautiful courtyard. In addition to the events themselves, one of the best aspects of this festival is that it allows all these people—agents, publishers, cultural representatives, translators, and, of course, authors—to connect in a relaxed, celebratory setting.

Today we’re trying to make it to “Private Lives, Public Lives, Other Lives, New Lives” with Ingo Schulze and Eliot Weinberger, “Olympic Voices” with Chinese authors and Dedi Felman, the special “Tribute to Robert Walser” and the “Believer Magazine event” before the Romanian poet reading at KGB, the German dance party (hell yes), and the Hungarian Cultural Center shin-dig. Assuming we make it through alive, we’ll post more tomorrow . . .

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